A product of Alabama Soccer: Nealy Martin in the NWSL

Martha Glen Sease, Contributing Writer

Alabama Soccer supporters have seen talented players take the pitch at the Alabama Soccer Complex. Now, supporters can see an Alabama Soccer alumna take the pitch at Lynn Family Stadium and fields across the nation as a member of Racing Louisville FC in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Nealy Martin is in her second season as a professional soccer player in the NWSL. Martin appeared in a total of 76 matches while at the University of Alabama, and she started 69 of those matches. The defender scored a total of five goals across her career, with a career-high three goals in her senior season.

After graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, Martin went overseas to continue her soccer career in Wales. Martin said she heard about an open tryout for Racing Louisville FC while in Wales, and signed up knowing she would be home for Christmas – which was “around the time of the trial.”

The trial was set to take place across two days but was condensed due to weather circumstances. 

“I prepared the best I could physically by getting in the best shape possible and also by training and getting as many touches on the ball as I could,” Martin said. 

She impressed the Racing Louisville FC staff, and was invited on for a trial period – which ultimately ended in a contract.

Martin quickly became a regular starter for Racing Louisville FC, and she has started all three 2022 regular season matches opening Racing’s NWSL season. 

Martin said speed of play was a big adjustment she had to make moving from college to professional play. 

“I think in college you can get away with certain touches that you can’t at this level,” Martin said. “Along with that is also being able to read the game quicker at the professional level. Everything is happening quicker and it takes some time to adjust.”

She said playing for Alabama helped her prepare to make the jump from college soccer to professional soccer, as she learned more about tactics from the Crimson Tide’s soccer staff such as how to properly fuel and train to play at an elite level, and how to approach the game mentally.

Racing Louisville FC ended the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, a pre-season tournament-style league competition, third in its group with a 1-3-2 record. Over the 2021 NWSL season, the 2021 Challenge Cup and the 2022 Challenge Cup, Martin said she is adjusting to the quicker rate of play and becoming more efficient in her play. 

“I am learning every single day and seeing the game differently as I play different positions, or watch film, or have smaller talks with staff members and teammates,” Martin said.

Martin is also learning how to be the best professional player she can be alongside Olympic athletes both on and off her team in the NWSL. Martin said she grew up watching many of these players, and she is now getting to play with or against them as the 2022 season rolls on.

Martin’s goals for the 2022 season include continuing to learn more and grow in her game as she enters her sophomore season as a professional soccer player. She is looking to fit into any role her team needs, and playing as many minutes as possible within the season. Martin said a team goal is to make a deep playoff run, with eyes on the NWSL title in Racing Louisville FC’s second season as a franchise.

Martin and Racing Louisville FC will welcome the San Diego Wave to Lynn Family Stadium on Wednesday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Racing Louisville FC’s full schedule is available here.